Dubai delight as memorable Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup comes to end

Action from a thrilling Gold Cup final   Picture by Louise Adams
Action from a thrilling Gold Cup final Picture by Louise Adams
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Adolfo Cambiaso continued his dominance of world polo by leading Ali Albwardy’s Dubai team to a fourth Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup at Cowdray Park.

It took two chukkas before the final of the British Open Polo Championship between Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha’s King Power and Dubai became a fascinating game of high-goal polo with superb play by the two ten-goalers, Cambiaso playing at back for Dubai, and King Power’sNo3 Gonzalito Pieres.

Rashid Albwardy’s choice of Alastair Paterson (three goals) at No2 and the brilliant goal scoring of seven-goal Diego Cavanagh at No3 proved an almost unstoppable force throughout the championship. But the big surprise of the tournament was to find King Power in the final at their first Gold Cup attempt.

Throughout the four weeks, King Power’s talented patron ‘Top’ Srivaddhanaprabha delighted spectators with his gutsy play and excellent goalscoring. With Pablo Llorente (five goals) as his No2 and the experienced Marcos Di Paola (seven goals) at back, the team had won all their matches.

Dubai were first to score with a neat field goal from Rashid Albwardy. When Cambiaso fouled Pieres towards the end of the first chukka, a penalty enabled King Power to level.

A messy second chukka ended 4-3 in Dubai’s favour. A more free-flowing third saw Pieres stop a strong forward pass by Cambiaso and pass to Llorente, who raced off to send a massive hit from way down the field resulting in a superb goal. King Power were equal again.

Dubai notched up two goals before Pieres shut out Cambiaso, allowing Di Paola to score a splendid goal to equalise again at 5-5. But it wasn’t long before the white shirts gave away a penalty which Cavanagh shot through to take the lead again for Dubai.

Cambiaso pounced on the ball, played it around the opposition, then took off for the goal to send the ball between the posts for a lead of 7-5.

After the tread-in a mighty hit at goal by Cambiaso went wide, and again found the space to approach the goal – but that shot failed. Finally his non-stop efforts paid with his second field goal.

King Power’s Di Paola just failed to get the goal he wanted, but Llorente captured the ball and passed to Pieres, who weaved through to score.

Soon a foul gave Diego Cavanagh the chance to put through a 30-yard hit between the posts to take Dubai 9-6 ahead.

Chukka five’s first goal went to Cavanagh from a spot hit awarded to Dubai. A penalty three gave Gonzalito the chance to loft a superb ball through for 10-7 and he followed it with three superb field goals, levelling it at 10-10. But a penalty awarded to Dubai saw Cavanagh score and take Dubai ahead once more.

Cambiaso was away from the first throw-in of chukka six and tapped his way forward. A splendid shot took Dubai on to 12-10. Off he went again but was fouled and a 60 yard penalty awarded. A mighty hit from Cavanagh gave Dubai a lead of 13-10.

The next throw-in saw Pablo Llorente away with the ball and determined to keep it. Weaving his way round two opponents, he kept control of the ball and sent it through for 13-11, which was how it ended for Dubai to secure their fourth Gold Cup.

The cup was presented by Lady Cowdray; Jean-Marc Lacave, president of Veuve Clicquot, presented a salmanazar of Veuve Clicquot to the Dubai patron Rashid Albwardy, and Jo Thornton, MD of Moët Hennessy UK, presented individual prizes to the players.

The Peter Holman Award for most valuable player went to Cambiaso. Elsa Corbineau, director of marketing for champagnes for Moët Hennessy, presented the Veuve Clicquot saddle to the highest scorer of the championship to Gonzalito Pieres, who had scored 48 goals during the tournament.

Rose Harper presented the Harper spurs to Srivaddhanaprabha, the traditional presentation to the patron of the runners-up.

The best playing pony award was presented by Gaston Lauhle on behalf of the Argentine Polo Pony Breeders Association to Dolfina Primicia, owned and ridden by Cambiaso.

LIZ HIGGINS